To be honest, the notion of a high school dance on a Tuesday night seems like a bad idea. Dancing until eleven on a school night, and then driving home from San Diego doesn’t exactly sound like common sense. The kids, flushed with the energy of youth and fueled by the novelty of dinner and dancing afloat on Mission Bay, know that they’ll get to sleep in the next morning, and then come to campus to be fed pancakes and sausages by parent volunteers before filing in to watch the Senior Slide Show. The handful of chaperons – our ASB Director, and our three site administrators- wake up to a usual Wednesday morning. And yet…
The Senior Boat Dance has become, in my five years at LCC, one of my very favorite student events.
It may be that the event is only for seniors, and occurs when all find themselves in the emotional limbo of having finished finals but not yet participated in commencement. It may be because any senior can attend; tickets cost less than a half-tank of gas, and no one has to rent a tux. As likely is that the boat dance seems to perfectly capture the unexpected and slightly goofy nature of high school, a few hundred kids in semi-formal attire dancing on a sternwheeler.
Each June I feel a little like James Garner’s Maverick as I walk onto the boat and look up at the stained glass ceiling of the dining room. And each year I reflect that with the distractedness present at graduation rehearsal and the formality that comes when seniors all don caps and gowns, the night of the Boat Dance is the last time I’ll really get to see the students in the senior class in their natural environment.
Well, not quite natural.
While formal attire isn’t required, everyone cleans up a bit, and it’s in these button down shirts and casual dresses that I see a flicker of the young adults these students are becoming. Hair in place, but not sculpted, smiles present but not forced, these students (dressed as if ready for a job interview) stand on the cusp of great things …and dancing!
Actually there’s only one deck reserved for the DJ and dance floor. Above that is dinner and desserts amid a flotilla of tables where students linger to talk about the days gone by. Above that is the roof deck, where students lean on railings, look out over the bay, and reflect. I spend most of my night on this deck.
To see these thoughtful seventeen and eighteen year olds begin to understand the finality of the last week of high school is profound. I think they see that the era of wearing a Maverick sweatshirt or LCC shorts every day are almost over. High school will be supplanted by life, and even as the memories of LCC will travel with them, the end of their high school voyage is as close as the riverboat returning to the dock.
Still, before it does we all enjoy an evening on the water under the stars. We see each other through the heart-softened eyes of the last week of school, we think about the memories built in four years together, and we can all almost forget that it’s really a Tuesday night.